March 19, 2020 COVID-19 Update

As the COVID-19 situation in Canada and around the world continues to develop rapidly, we are providing our sixth update to employers.  While we aim to provide updates specific to Alberta and related Federal matters, we have also included updates relevant to Ontario and Saskatchewan, by request.  
We will continue to provide information as it becomes available. We remain available to you to answer any specific questions you may have.
Alberta - Emergency Isolation Support
Alberta has announced a temporary program for Albertans who must self-isolate by virtue of meeting the Government of Alberta's published criteria for self-isolation.  This program will include sole caregivers for a dependent who must self-isolate and who will not have another source of pay or compensation while they are self-isolated. The criteria for self-isolation has evolved in recent days and may continue to evolve over time.  The Government of Alberta's COVID-19 online resource should be consulted regularly for updates.
The temporary program support will be provided in a one-time instalment.  It is intended to provide support until Federal emergency payments begin in April.  Applications are expected to be made available online through alberta.caPayment is anticipated to be without delay for those who are eligible. 
Alberta - Deferrals to Aid Relief
Various deferrals have been made in efforts to alleviate burdens caused by the COVID-19 outbreak:
  • Government will defer the collection of corporate income tax balances and instalment payments due after March 18, 2020 until August 31, 2020.
  • Residential, farm, and small commercial customers will be allowed to defer electricity and natural gas bill payments for the next 90 days, regardless of service provider.
  • The province has announced that Alberta Treasury Branch (ATB) personal banking customers can apply for a deferral on Alberta Treasury Branch loans, lines of credit, and mortgages for up to six (6) months. Additionally, small business customers will be provided access to additional working capital. For more details of ATB's relief program, click here.
  • A six (6) month, interest free moratorium on Alberta student loans was also announced.
Alberta's dedicated webpage regarding available supports can be located here.

Ontario - Employment Standards Amendments and New Leave
On March 19, 2020, the Government of Ontario passed the Employment Standards Amendment Act(Infectious Disease Emergencies), 2020. The effect of this amending legislation is to provide job-protected leave to employees in isolation or quarantine due to COVID-19, or those who need to be away from work to care for children because of school or day care closures or to care for other relatives.
This new job-protected leave is wide-ranging. It includes, among others, employees who are in isolation or quarantine in accordance with public health information or direction. It also applies to employees who have certain family members who need emergency care. Employees are not required to provide a medical note for this leave, though some other form of reasonable documentation may be required by an employer at a time that is reasonable in the circumstances.
These measures are retroactive to January 25, 2020.  For more, see the Government of Ontario news publication.

Saskatchewan - Public Health Emergency Leave and Employment Standards Amendments
On March 17, 2020, the Government of Saskatchewan introduced changes to The Saskatchewan Employment Act, making new amendments to the Act and introducing a new "Public Health Emergency Leave". This leave provides for a leave of absence in certain circumstances:
  • Where the World Health Organization has declared a public health emergency and the Chief Medical Officer has ordered that declaration applies to Saskatchewan and individuals must take measures to prevent or reduce the spread of disease; or
  • The Chief Medical Officer issues an order that a disease in Saskatchewan is sufficiently harmful to the public health that individuals must take measures to prevent or reduce the spread of disease.
In these circumstances, an employee may be entitled to the Public Health Emergency Leave for the period in which the aforementioned condition continues.  This includes where the employee has been directed to isolate by their employer, a qualified physician, the government or the Chief Medical Officer.  Employees may be entitled to their regular wages while on this leave if they are authorized to work from home and comply with any requirements of the Chief Medical Officer or other directives.  
The amendments have been made retroactive and deemed to be in force since March 6, 2020.  Saskatchewan's most recent updates can be found on their COVID-19 online resource.

Saskatchewan - Public State of Emergency
On March 18, 2020 Saskatchewan announced a public state of emergency.  Broad restrictions on businesses were immediately imposed and should be reviewed by local employers via the Government of Saskatchewan website.

In responding to the unprecedented situation presented by COVID-19 and its related impacts on business, we encourage employers to be open and honest in their communications with employees about what is known and what is not yet known. Legislative and policy changes are being announced regularly across jurisdictions. The interplay of Federal and Provincial schemes will also be relevant in many cases. 
The application of the law to these current realities is a challenge, but we are prepared to apply our decades of cumulative expertise to help navigate this uncertain period.
Do not hesitate to contact us if you have specific questions about your workplace, and please consider donating blood if you are eligible to do so.


The information in this update is intended as general information and should not relied on as legal advice.